Discover how you can instantly alter your physiology to automatically feel much calmer.
When we feel calm, others feel our calm too. Being able to restore calmness can therefore not just benefit us, but those around us.
Notice for a moment where your in-breath is going. Does your chest rise, or does your stomach expand as you breathe in? Just try to notice without judgment.
Have you ever watched a baby breathe? Next time you do, see if you can notice how their belly rises with every breath in.
This is the natural, healthy way to breathe. When we breathe this way, we trigger our parasympathetic nervous system into action. And that mode of operation is what grows us, restores us and regenerates our cells. It allows us to feel calm, think more clearly and make healthy, rational decisions.
Alternatively, when we breathe high up into our chest, we trigger our fight flight response, which is the mode of operation used in an emergency – such as running from a lion. We cannot feel calm when breathing this way, it’s virtually impossible. Unfortunately, most adults in western society get into the bad habit of breathing this way, due to the abundant unnatural stimuli constantly surrounding us, and it can actually be our single biggest stressor.
When we breathe high into our chest, we increase our hearth rate, adrenalin levels and our thoughts rush sporadically all over the place seemingly unable to calmly rationalise. The higher we breathe into our chest the more panicked we feel. And this feeling causes us to breathe more shallowly, and even higher in our chest. Each response propels the other, generating a heightened state that is a bit like accelerating a car in first gear - you go fast, but you’re thrashing and burning out the engine.
Many of us exist in fight flight mode, breathing this way the majority of the time, without even knowing it. And then we wonder why we feel anxious, stressed and burnt out.
The good news is it’s an easy fix.
The following 3 steps will restore your everyday breathing allowing you to thrive mentally and physically. The more you practice, the more quickly your breathing will adjust to a natural pace, rhythm and flow. And you will feel so much better.
Step 1: Direct your breath to your tummy
See if you can breathe in through your nose, and allow your in-breath to bypass your chest, going all the way down to your bellybutton.
Many people find that lying down when first practicing this helps, as you can place a hand on your stomach and feel it rise up with each in-breath. All you need to do is practice this, at your own pace - breathing all the way down to your stomach, imagining your in-breath going to below your belly button, raising your tummy up. You may choose to close your eyes when first practicing this too, as we are able to focus more with our eyes closed.
Envisage your breath filling your entire body with life-giving oxygen and air – with the same natural life force of all that is living, the trees, the plants, the birds and animals. Envisage your body being filled with this life-generating energy – the life force of our entire planet.
It’s a great idea to practice this while going to sleep at night, as it will help you relax and unwind. However, the more you practice directing your in-breath down to your tummy, the better. See if you can practice it while driving, or at work, or maybe even watching television.
Step 2: Slow your breath down
Next try breathing in to the count of 4, and out to the count of 6. In other words, allow your out breath to take slightly longer to release than the intake of your breath. If you're comfortable at a 4/6 count, see if you are able to increase it to 5/7, or even 6/8. Remember there is no right or wrong - just increase your count to a level that is the highest you can take it while still allowing your breathing to feel comfortable and unforced.
Slowing your breathing down this way, while breathing deeply into your tummy, will settle your nervous system down naturally and automatically.
Step 3: Practice until it’s natural
This is the natural way of being and breathing, so it won't take your body and mind long to return to its natural state.
Remember though, if you're like most of us you may have got yourself into an unnatural and unhelpful habit of breathing in a way that stresses your body and mind. Habits generally take 3 weeks to shift, so keep up the practice for a minimum of 3 weeks, and then notice how your breathing has automatically shifted to its natural, restorative mode.
Notice how much better you feel - how much more calm you are in general, how much more clearly you think. And acknowledge the power of your mind to generate powerful change in the most simple ways - all you need to know is "how”.
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